STICKTIGHT FLEAS TAKE HOLD IN A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BURROWING OWL POPULATION: IMPLICATIONS FOR ARTIFICIAL BURROW DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT.
Susanne A. Marczak; San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research; 15600 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido, CA, 92027; (858) 342-2962; smarczak@sandiegozoo.org; Colleen L. Wisinski, Lisa A. Nordstrom
The sticktight flea (Echindnophaga gallinacea) is a common and widespread ectoparastite with a broad host range, including western burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia hypugaea). Chicks and adult females are particularly susceptible during continued and concentrated exposure to flea eggs laid within their nesting burrows. Typically, the prevalence of fleas on owls decreases over the course of the breeding season as juvenile owls grow larger and spend less time within the burrow. Since we began monitoring breeding burrowing owls in San Diego County in 2013, we have witnessed varying levels of flea infestations. However, in 2018 we observed an outbreak of sticktight fleas on both juvenile and adult burrowing owls at locations in San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial counties. We documented declines in body conditions of owls due to atypically high levels of fleas, potentially resulting in decreased survivorship of both adult and juvenile individuals. In this presentation we report on multiple cases of infestation, the variety of methods used to treat wild owls and their burrows, and the subsequent results of those treatment methods. Additionally, we make management recommendations to help reduce the prevalence of stick-tight fleas and other parasites within artificial burrows.
Ecology and Conservation of Birds III